King’s Speech 2023: The start of a fightback or the last throw of the dice?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has staked his electoral hopes on pulling off a slight of hand – despite thirteen years of Conservative rule, his party conference speech in October proclaimed the need for change, and argued that he was the man to deliver it.

He now needs to back that up with action, and the King’s Speech today was his first opportunity.

Undeniably there were pieces of legislation announced that will shape the face and future of the UK, particularly in the technology sector.

  • The Automated Vehicles Bill, will introduce new legal frameworks to support the safe commercial development of emerging industries. The Government claims that the Bill will unlock a ‘transport revolution’ by enabling the safe deployment of self-driving vehicles, and create a UK market of up to £42 billion and create 38,000 skilled jobs by 2035.
  • The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, carried over from the last Parliament, will create a new UK data rights regime, which will encourage innovation in technologies such as machine learning. The Government predicts that the Bill will reduce the burdens on businesses by removing unnecessary barriers that will boost the economy by £4.7 billion over 10 years.
  • The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill will give the Competition and Markets Authority new powers to enable it to tackle anti-competitive activity, and to address the ‘far-reaching power of a small number of tech companies’ to encourage start-ups and spur innovation. The Government expects it to deliver a consumer benefit of £9.7 billion over 10 years.
  • The Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill will mandate the regular issuing of licences for North Sea oil and gas.
  • The Tobacco and Vapes Bill will introduce a ban on smoking that will mean anyone aged 14 or below will never legally be able to buy cigarettes.
  • And for football, such a key part of the social and cultural life of the UK, the Football Governance Bill, will introduce a new regulator for the national game.

But announcing that legislation will be introduced is just the tip of the iceberg. In the coming weeks organisations and companies interested in these issues will have an opportunity to influence the direction the government takes in implementing its vision.

Now is the time to proactively engage, and ensure that the Government’s approach is as conducive to your approach and requirements as possible.

And yet, stepping back from the bills above, much of this King’s Speech focused on issues that, regardless of one’s political views, are not necessarily those keeping the nation awake at night. Regulation of pedicabs in London and clamping down on ‘poor quality’ degrees, whilst important, are not the issues on which elections are won and lost.

Which ultimately highlights Rishi Sunak’s challenge. He has positioned himself as the change candidate, but his critics accuse his government of running out of steam. He now needs to prove them wrong, by driving real and meaningful change, the benefits of which the electorate can see.

The first King’s Speech in over seven decades may have felt like the start of a new royal era. The risk for the Prime Minister was that in its content, the King’s Speech may have felt like the end of a political one.